The End of The Office?

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Friday. Noon. Live chat. See you then. FYI, I’m saving my thoughts on Rescue Me and Louie til the chat.

On to today’s blog:

his replacement is a story for another day. we're just worried about how carell and the office producers will handle the immediate future

his replacement is a story for another day. we're just worried about how carell and the office producers will handle the immediate future

When Steve Carell ducks out early from The Office, he’ll be leaving a gaping hole wider than Kevin Malone’s waistline.

There’s actually a pretty long TV tradition of this happening. Star gets famous, star gets crazy-money movie offers, star turns down crazy-money movie offers because of brutal TV schedule, star gets p!ssed, star leaves show for greener, easier, pricier Hollywood pastures.

Give Carell credit — he held out as long as he could. At any point of the show, he could have walked away and been a huge Hollywood star. He came on The Office in April 2005, and just four months later he more than capably carried one of the biggest surprise movies of the summer, 40-Year-Old Virgin. For his next trick, he went completely against type in 2006 to star in Little Miss Sunshine and came out feeling dinkin’ flicka.

It’s kinda like being married to a 9.5, but still having 10s with trust funds hit on you on a daily basis even though you never take off your wedding ring. “No, sorry, I just can’t. I … I just can’t. See, I’ve got this other thing …” That’s been Carell’s life for the last five years. Sure, he’s flirted, and enough people have arranged their schedules around him that he’s been able to miss a couple episodes here, film a couple hiatus movies there, but for the most part, he’s been completely monogamous to The Office.

Now, that 9.5 has turned into a 7 — maybe 7.5 — and those 10s just keep looking hotter. Somebody had to be the first to leave show. There isn’t another cast like it on TV, where six of its biggest stars — Carell, John Krasinski, Ed Helms, Rainn Wilson, Jenna Fisher and Craig Robinson — have legitimate movie careers, but have stayed loyal to the show. Who knows if this is going to make someone else jump ship, whether it will cause producers to end the show while it’s still good, or whether there will be a Michael Scott replacement (my early, darkhorse pick: Dave Foley).

If nothing else, there is a blueprint the show can follow to make sure it doesn’t make the same mistakes of other shows that famously have had to replace stars. Also, Carell should also be mindful of the mistakes others who have left TV shows have made. Here are six examples:

WELCOME BACK, KOTTER

Who left: John Travolta as Vinnie Barbarino

Replaced by: No one.

What happened: Travolta did it the right way, like Carell is doing. He kept his TV gig while becoming a legitimate movie superstar — he starred in Grease and Saturday Night Fever while still doing his “What? Where?” shtick every week on Kotter. He was obviously destined for great things — but he didn’t want to drop the paycheck just in case. If Carell should follow the career notes of anyone, it’s Travolta.

What happened to the show: Nothing, really. Barbarino wasn’t phased out until the middle of the last season, and no one was watching then anyway because a behind-the-scenes rumored fight between ABC and Gabe Kaplan already rendered the show unwatchable. So it only went from silly to stupid, and Travolta got to take his name off the really stupid episodes. Arguably the best-timed actor jump from any TV show. Too bad we lost this:

is it just me or did joyce dewitt have crazy eyes?

is it just me or did joyce dewitt have crazy eyes?

THREE’S COMPANY

Who left: Suzanne Somers (dim-witted Chrissy Snow).

Replaced by: Two indelible names — Jenilee Harrison, who played Chrissy’s cousin Cindy, and then by Priscilla Barnes, who played Terri.

What happened: Somers thought she was getting jobbed on her paycheck, so she stopped showing up for work. she didn’t exactly light things up when she left. I don’t remember her in one movie until she played herself in Serial Mom. “Suzanne Somers! This is my bad side!”

What happened to the show: It was in shambles before she left — part of the reason was because it was so formulaic — but it was just a disaster after. Somers staying wouldn’t have done much.

CHEERS

Who left: Shelley Long (Diane Chambers)

Replaced by: Kirstie Alley (Rebecca “Backseat Becky” Howe)

What happened: Long decided to try to make it in movies — and failed. The one quality thing she did — Money Pit — somehow bombed despite it finding a heavy cult audience 20 years later and it being a staple of the Sadowski movie quote stable, especially when anyone dares mutter the words “two weeks” within my earshot.

What happened to the show: TV is littered with shows that didn’t make it after one of the big stars signed off. Cheers isn’t one of them. It led to one of the big pop culture debates of the 80s, right up there with “Pacino or DeNiro?” or “Coke or Pepsi?” — “Diane or Rebecca?” I’m staunchly on the Rebecca side in every category — hotness, comic ability, better cast member, better actress. So I don’t care that Shelley Long was, for a while, the most famous actress to dump her multi-million-dollar TV show deal in favor of going after the even bigger Hollywood bucks. Her Cheers episodes aren’t unwatchable by any means — but once Alley got into the swing of things around her second season or so, I’d take five of Rebecca’s worst episodes over any one of Diane’s best. Luckily for Long, she has one person to thank for being a footnote in this discussion instead of the example …

NYPD BLUE

Who left: The revolving door of Sipowicz’s partners started after David Caruso jumped ship as Det. John Kelly in 1994.

Replaced by: Jimmy Smits stepped in, then Ricky Schroder, then Zack Morris.

What happened: In the ultimate example of popular TV stars thinking they can just sashay into movies and make a trillion dollars, Caruso left one of the most popular shows on TV after 26 episodes. 26! He left four episodes into the second season of the show. the way people talk about it now, you’d swear he was there for 20 years. His first two starring-role movies after he left were Kiss of Death (pretty good movie that I actually own) and Jade (P.O.S.). Both bombed Jonah Hex style. He then had seven years of Hollywood limbo before landing the CSI: Miami gig, tail between legs. He’s still held up as the example for every actor — “Don’t leave your show, remember what happened to David Caruso!”

What happened to the show: The show went on for 12 seasons, and Caruso was barely a blip on its radar when all was said and done.

SPIN CITY

the way it should be ... without charlie sheen

the way it should be ... without charlie sheen

Who left: Michael J. Fox (Mike Flaherty)

Replaced by: Charlie Sheen (Charlie Crawford)

What happened: One of the best ensemble comedies of the mid-90s lost its leader in 2001 when Fox finally went public with his Parkinson’s Disease in 2000 and called it Spin City quits from one of the most sneaky-funny shows of the decade and one of my favorite farewell episodes of all time.

What happened to the show: Ick. Just … ick. Sheen’s comedic moments in his career were few and far between before he came on Spin City. What, because of his 30-second Ferris Bueller cameo that can only be dubbed mildly funny, that means he can sub in for a man who undoubtedly could be called one of the sitcom acting geniuses of the 80s and 90s? Don’t think so. A mute chimp could have delivered his classic Major League lines and made them funny, so that shouldn’t be held up as any kind of comedy example. Somehow he won a Golden Globe on Spin City, but thankfully never got an Emmy nomination. I guess I just don’t find the guy funny, because I think Two and a Half Men is the antithesis of comedy. Not only did Sheen’s comedic presence drag down the show, but the completely obvious and boring pairing of him with Caitlin made me check out.

NEWSRADIO

Who left: Phil Hartman (Bill McNeal)

Repaced by: Jon Lovitz (Max Lewis)

What happened: One of the most gruesome moments in TV casting history, Hartman’s wife killed him, then killed herself. Lovitz was an obvious, cheap alternative because he graduated from the same SNL era and was friends with Hartman.

What happened to the show: It was Sheen-style fun-killer. The difference is Sheen took over for the main character on Spin city and became the main character. Lovitz could just blend into the background and show up routinely to say something funny and go away … only he didn’t say many funny things. That final season of NewsRadio might as well be a whole other show, as it bears little-to-no resemblance to the rest of the first four seasons. Whether that’s because of the absence of Hartman or the presence of Lovitz, that’s for you to decide.

Some other quick links:

six months? is that too much?

six months? is that too much?

Just when you think Megan Fox couldn’t get any battier, she goes out and proves us all wrong. Touche, Mrs. Green. Touche indeed.

Twilight: Eclipse’s midnight numbers from last night aren’t out yet as of 10 a.m., but one record we know it’s already broken is its screen count. It opens on more screens today than any other movie, edging out Iron Man 2. By Tuesday, it’s not outrageous to see it make $150 million. (UPDATE, 4:16 p.m.: Another midnight record for the Twilight franchise, it makes $30 million in midnight shows. That beats New Moon’s $26.3 million.)

Eclipse isn’t the only thing breaking records — Eminem’s new disc is out there too putting up big numbers. It’s about time the music industry had some kind of shot in the arm.

As boring as I think Larry King is, I’m racking my brain trying to come up with someone who can take over his talk show — and I’m coming up empty. I’d say Jon Stewart, but I think he likes the loose format of The Daily Show too much to leave to take over for King. If CNN is smart, that’s the direction it will go in, remaking the show into something more Daily Show-ish. CNN’s marketshare and audience is eroding. It needs something to give it some kind of buzz.

Everything about Grown Ups screamed bomb. So how the heck did it succeed to the tune of the fifth-biggest opening weekend of the summer.

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